Mustangs gallop to title
Tye Chandler, [email protected]
When the Mow Pros Mustangs dealt the DRP Auto Body Hotshots their first loss of the season in last week’s playoff contest, it made Mustang players believe they could become city champions.
On Tuesday night, MP came up with a big surge down the stretch to beat DRP 6-4 in the freshman division championship game. Each team finished with two hits, as MP ended up with more errors (4-3).
“We lost our first two games to (DRP),” said Mustang coach Donnie Keilers. “They were close, but my girls weren’t sure if they could hit (against DRP). I told them we have good bats, but we have to use them. Our win over (DRP) Friday really helped the girls believe and had them prepared for (Tuesday’s game).”
Natalie Keever led the Mustang offense with a triple, while Marissa Godwin added a single. The team also got RBIs from Maile Deutsch and Larissa Mathis. Haven Keilers pitched three-and-a-third innings, while Deutsch came on in relief.
Meanwhile, Alexandria Ross and Landry Nutt each singled for DRP. Chelsea Vandiver went the distance in the circle.
Pitchers dominate early
Although Keever reached base on an error in the top of the first, Vandiver struck out a pair of batters and fielded a groundout. In the bottom of the first, Mustang second baseman Natalie Tims stood out when she fielded consecutive groundouts.
“Tims was my third baseman, but our second baseman Ariel Burden injured her knee and wasn’t able to finish the season,” Keilers said. “A couple of my coaches suggested moving Tims over to second and it proved in the last couple of games to be the right move. She’s playing great defense.”
Vandiver faced just four batters again in the top of the second, as she struck out two more and fielded a groundout. Ross led off the DRP second with a bloop single just over Keilers, but the pitcher struck out three of the next four batters she faced.
“Haven is a good pitcher and she did a solid job for us when she was in there,” Keilers said. “She was coming off a no-hitter against DRP last week.”
Vandiver again fielded a pair of groundouts in the top of the third. Zandrea Johnson reached base on an error and it looked as if she might score on a passed ball, but catcher Nutt hustled and tossed the ball to Vandiver in time for a successful tag at the plate.
In the bottom of the third, DRP capitalized on some walks to load the bases with one out.
After Keilers’ second strikeout of the inning, Koko White (RBI) drew a bases-loaded walk for a 1-0 DRP lead. Moments later, catcher Keever and Keilers hustled after a passed ball to get a successful tag on a play at the plate.
“The girls have been working all season to try to get those outs at the plate,” Keilers said. “They haven’t gotten many up to this point, but on that play they were both quick enough to get the job done. Hopefully, they keep executing in that situation.”
In the top of the fourth, Keever smacked a one-out triple to right field. An RBI groundout by Deutsch tied the score up at 1-1, as third baseman Cameran Wilson and second baseman Lareina Carrillo joined Vandiver with fielded groundouts in the frame.
“That was probably the best hit of the game,” Keilers said of the Keever triple. “I was trying to hold Keever up at second base because I was worried about their throw (to third), but she kept coming to third and it worked out for us. I was proud of Natalie and she’s one of my big hitters. It was great for Maile to get that RBI and tie the game back up to give us the momentum.”
In the bottom of the fourth, DRP took advantage of two Mustang errors and a wild pitch to jump out to a 3-1 lead. After catching a popup at shortstop, Deutsch came on in relief of Keilers and struck out both batters she faced to prevent further damage.
“Maile volunteered to pitch if we needed it and she’s worked at home to improve,” Keilers said. “She showed that she’s a good all-around player and can step in for Haven if we need it.”
Mow Pros finish strong
In the top of the fifth with time running short, the Mustangs seemed to capitalize on every opportunity. After a couple of her teammates drew walks, Godwin connected on a slow roller single past the pitcher.
“Marissa has really stepped up here lately,” Keilers said. “She pulled herself out of a slump and has found ways to come through for us.”
Mathis then connected on an RBI fielder’s choice to the shortstop, as Ashley Moye (walk) was ruled safe at the plate (3-2).
“Larissa joined us last year, and you can see she’s made great improvements in her hitting,” Keilers said. “She comes to practice early and works hard. I’m very proud of her coming up with hits when we need them.”
With the bases still loaded, Johnson hit a hard liner to first base and a pair of runs came in on the fielding error that ensued (4-3).
“Zandrea joined us last year and she’s really improved,” Keilers said. “She’s come through when we need her.”
The Mustangs stayed aggressive, as Mathis slid in under a Nutt tag on a passed ball and then Johnson came in to score on Nutt’s throw down to second base (6-3).
While DRP still had an at bat, the deficit proved to be too great. Although Nutt singled and scored when an error was committed on a Nicole Gutierrez ground ball (6-4), Deutsch then snagged a hard liner back up the middle and fired the ball over to Keilers at first base for a title-clinching double play.
“It means a lot to me to win city against Arthur Carrillo’s team,” Keilers said. “He has an outstanding ballclub and he’s probably the best coach in our division, if not the league. I have a lot of respect for what he’s able to teach his girls to do.
“My girls had to battle back this season to be able to beat a great team like that. If the girls stay focused in district and keep up the defense and hitting we’ve had, I think we’ll do well.”